Spiritual Leaders  

Reverend Robert H. Bishop


IT WAS DURING the pastorate of Robert H. Bishop who never got over his Scotch tongue, when some of the ladies had stood too long for the pastor he said, "Sit doon, sit doon, we have seen your new goons long enough."



Bishop rubbed elbows with many influential men of his time...

Distinguished faculty that Bishop served with while at Transylvania:

Many of Bishops students became movers and shakers:

  • Ten were founders of higher institutions of learning; seventeen were Presidents of such institutions.
  • Many of his students were famous statesmen; seven United States Senators; sixteen Representatives; eight Governors; including:

Robert Bishop: Served 1803-1814

Born: Linlithgowshire, Scotland, July 26, 1777
Died: Pleasant Hill, Ohio, April 29, 1855

"I suppose it may safely be said that he had a more important agency in directing and advancing the educational interests of the West, than any other man who lived during the same period."

— From Sprague's annals of the
American Pulpit

"Bishop was a man of large attainments and very varied knowledge. His lectures in history are remembered as well for their wide information as for their keen appreciation of the characteristics of mankind."

— Jefferson Davis, student of Robert Bishop while at Transylvania University.

"Though I shall no more take my accustomed seat in your class-room, I would not that this separation should destroy whatever interest you may have felt in my welfare, but whenever you may see anything in my course which you may deem reprehensible, be assured any advice which may suggest itself under whatever circumstances or on whatever subject, can never meet with other than a hearty welcome."

— Benjamin Harrison, President of the United States, student of Robert Bishop while at Miami University.

Robert Hamilton Bishop, son of William Bishop and his wife Margaret Hamilton, was born in a small community in Scotland. Robert's boyhood was typical of that of a poor Presbyterian Scotch farmer's son. His father was a descendant of the Convenanters and very religious.

When about seventeen years of age he entered the University of Edinburgh and graduated therefrom in 1798. When Bishop came to Edinburgh such men as David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, and Thomas Reid graced the faculty. The two men who influenced Bishop the most were Reverend James Finlayson and the celebrated philosopher, Dugald Stewart.

From the University of Edinburgh, Bishop went to the Divinity hall at Selkirk, and was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Associate Burgher Presbytery of Perth in 1802.

Dr. John M. Mason of New York came visiting the Burgher Synod of Scotland. He was was on a recruiting trip as commissioner of the Associate Reformed Synod of North America.

In March of 1803 Bishop was appointed to labor in Kentucky and accepted a call from the Ebenezer Church in Jessamine County. While serving as minister at Ebenezer, he was offered a professorship in Transylvania University in Lexington which he accepted. His close relationship with Transylvania brought on a clash between him and Adam Rankin, the organizer of the Ebenezer Church. Rankin was bitterly opposed to the policies of Transylvania University.

It's not surprising that two men of such different backgrounds were constantly at odds. Rankin, the son of Scottish immigrants, a slave-owner educated in rough-hewn schools on the American frontier, versus the young upstart Bishop, twenty-two years Rankin's junior, an early abolitionist educated at the prestigious University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Furthermore Rankin had laid his claim as the first minister to settle in the Bluegrass area, 20 years before Bishop came on the scene.

The bitter relationship between Rankin and Bishop lasted 17 years, delaying Bishop's ordination on this continent. Finally, the case was heard by the Presbytery Commission. The result was that Bishop was publicly rebuked, and Rankin suspended from the ministry.

In 1819 Bishop joined West Lexington Presbytery of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. So his connection with the Associate Reformed Church came to a close. For the rest of his life he was to live on more cordial relations with his fellow presbyters. It is to be noted that there was nothing brought against the character of Bishop in these trials.

Other Milestones in the life of Robert Bishop:

— An early sympathizer of the plight of black slaves. In 1815, he organized a Negro school at Pisgah, and in 1816 he opened a school for Negro girls at Transylvania.

After leaving Ebenezer Reverend Bishop organized the Second Presbyterian Church of Lexington and served as a minister in Versailles.

— Bishop served as acting president of Transylvania University from 1816-1818.

— Became first President of Miami University in Ohio in 1824.

— In 1845 he became headmaster of Farmer's College in Pleasant Hill, Ohio.

— Dr. Bishop was a voluminous writer. His chief works were: An Apology for Calvinism, 1804: Elements of Logic, 1833: Sketches of the Philosophy of the Bible, 1833; The Western Peacemaker, 1839.


Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
Organized 1793
Jessamine County, Kentucky

© Ebenezer Cemetery Association